Americans Mardy Fish and Brian Baker on the Comeback Trails at Cincinnati
MASON, Ohio — Two Americans who could have easily been top players by now, if not for their numerous injuries and health issues, continued on their newest comeback trails in Cincinnati on Monday.
Mardy Fish, a former top 10 player who has been sidelined for mcuh of the last 16 months with a heart issue, was up against Philipp Kohlschreiber on Center Court. At the same time, Brian Baker—a top junior who has missed the vast majority of his ten-year career with numerous injuries—played his first tour-level match since he tore his meniscus at the Australian Open.
Prior to today, Fish had only played a total of seven matches on the year. His heart issues have extended his time away from the tennis court, and it has taken a toll. But given this is his third tournament in just the last four weeks, it hopefully means he is finding a way to stay healthy and is able to play.
Of course, playing so few matches spread out over such a long period of time has meant that Fish really can’t find any rhythm on court.
This was clearly evidenced against a dangerous opponent like Kohlschreiber. Fish certainly had his moments of top-level play. He hit the ball crisply and cleanly and did well when he approached the net, especially during the middle of the first set. Fish was clearly very rusty early but worked himself into a rhythm on both his serve and his groundstrokes. He couldn’t sustain it, though, and eventually fell to Kohlschreiber in straight sets.
This match definitely has positives for Fish to take away from it. He played well for stretches of time and had his moments where he was clearly superior to Kohlschreiber, who is a consistent top 30 player in his own right, on court. If he can sustain his health and get more match play he might be able to find his form again.
Fish, though, was not so optimistic in his post-match interview.
It would be too strong to say he was despondent, but there was definitely a strong sense of disappointment about him. He spoke very candidly about his health and what he has been doing to ensure he can avoid the sort of physical and emotional stresses that his heart issue has caused in the past.
Fish spoke about how difficult this health issue is, knowing that he has no control over it. Admitting to being so scared after the US Open last summer, he didn’t leave his house for 3 months. He even spoke honestly about seeking psychiatric help “on a week-to-week basis” to overcome the mental hurdles.
He was, however, happy with his play last week, calling Washington “a good step in the right direction” but felt that his play today was “a step backwards for sure in the singles, no doubt about that”. He did admit that Kohlschreiber was a difficult opponent even for top players in his own right, but Fish’s overall mood after the loss seemed quite negative.
Brian Baker, on the other hand, felt quite positive after a good win over Denis Istomin. He said that he wasn’t playing his best and that Istomin didn’t quite hit the ball as well as he could either, but Baker said that he thought he managed his service games very well, aside from one with two double-faults, and that allowed him to gain momentum and lead to opportunities on Istomin’s service games.
Baker mentioned that he could have come back in Atlanta and still got a protected ranking but that his knee wasn’t quite healthy yet. Now, though, he says the knee is completely fine. He wore a sleeve on it during the match, but said that he didn’t need it. He wore it last week in Aptos to keep it warm in the 60-degree weather there and just kept it on here because it felt good wearing it
Baker might have once relished his position as a comeback story but is definitely tired of it now. “I don’t like being the comeback kid every time” he said, “but it’s kind of been forced on me.” He did say, however, that “it’s great to be back out there for sure, that’s number one.” He also thought playing the Challenger in Aptos last week prepared him well to head back on tour. Of course it will take a few matches before he gets back in full form, but hopefully for him this comeback is the last one he has to make.